In 2012, I migrated to Australia from the UK. I had been here six months when I started to get extreme back pain, which affected my ability to walk and stand.
Countless doctors, scans and specialist appointments led me to having numerous cortisone injections, radio frequency ablation and epidurals.
What was deemed to be chronic back pain was eventually diagnosed as Bertolotti's syndrome, which means I have an extra bone growth on the L5 vertebrae. A specialist picked this up on a CT scan who had seen the rare condition before.
The biggest issue was the condition was relatively unknown therefore many doctors overlooked it and there is very little information about the condition on the Internet. Another problem with Bertolotti's syndrome is that it affects the whole mechanics of the spine, which has knock-on effects for the sacroiliac joints and further back and leg pain.
I have since had L5 nerve root compression surgery along with excision of the extra joint. This worked for an initial period but then lead to Sacroliliac joint arthritis, and six weeks ago I had to have a further surgery for.
Bertolotti's syndrome affects every aspect of my life. Daily responsibilities like cooking, and showering become unbearable to the point where you just need to lie down. I have often had to just lie down on the street because the pain is just too much.
This condition can also lead to depression due to the desire to live a normal pain free life. It also severely impacts my ability to work and be very draining on personal relationships as those living with you can see your daily struggle.
The most helpful thing for improvement of quality of my life has been the support of others to help me through; also online communities have helped me connect with others out there with Bertolotti's syndrome. Management and access to medication is very important and allows me to do more of the things I would like to do. Physiotherapy and exercise has been the key to keeping my spine healthy.